Indian citizens have been claiming at different forums that India has blue water Navy. Is it correct claim? Lets have an analysis of this claim whether India really have a blue water Navy or not? But Before analyzing, there is a need to understand few basic terms:-
Blue Water Navy
“A blue water navy is a maritime force capable of operating globally, essentially across the deep waters of open deep oceans.”
The Defense Security Service of the United States has defined the blue water navy as,
“A maritime force capable of sustained operation across the deep waters of open oceans. A blue-water navy allows a country to project power far from the home country and usually includes one or more aircraft carriers. Smaller blue-water navies are able to dispatch fewer vessels abroad for shorter periods of time.”
Brown Water Navy
A naval force capable of carrying out military operations in fluvial or coastal environments, especially those carrying heavy sediment from soil or flooding resulting color of the water turning into brown. It This term is also used to describe the small gunboats and patrol boats commonly used in rivers, along with the larger “mother ships” that support them.
Green Water Navy
A naval force that can operate in its countries’ coastal zones and has the ability to carry out military operations in the open oceans of its surrounding region. It is a relatively new term. This term has been created to distinguish between blue-water navy and brown-water navy.
Present Assets of Indian Navy
This Aircraft carrier was commissioned by Soviet Navy in 1987 with the name Baku. It was later renamed Admiral Gorshkov in 1992 then decommissioned in 1995. India purchased the carrier along with MIG 29 and helicopters with final price 2.35$ Bn. India planned to commission this carrier in 2008 but could be able to commission till 2013, with 5 years of delay. The carrier has the total capacity of 36 air crafts (26 × Mikoyan MiG-29K multi-role fighters and 10 × Kamov Ka-31 AEW&C and Kamov Ka-28 ASW helicopters). This is the first step of India’s dream to be blue water Navy.
India’s first indigenously built nuclear submarine is undergoing extensive sea trials. Its induction help to complete India’s nuclear triad. As India was previously only able to launch ballistic missiles from the air and land. Arihant is the first ballistic missile submarine to have been built by a country other than one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Arihant has been commissioned in Aug 2016.
Future plans of Indian Navy
India’s second carrier, INS Vikrant, is being built at Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL). But it is eight years behind proposed schedule. Originally it was planned to be operational in 2015 but now expected to be fully operational till 2023.
A senior official of the Indian Navy stated last year
India intended to have a 200-ship navy in the next 10 years.
INS Vishal has been proposed as a cutting-edge warship with American design features technologically. Like the Type 002, it will have a catapult launch system that is also being used in all US Navy carriers. As Business Standard reported (November 7, 2016)
Navy’s second home-built carrier will be nuclear but will come only in the 2030s.
Vishal will have a feature of nuclear propulsion, an “electromagnetic aircraft launch system” (EMALS) and the capacity to embark at least 55 aircraft. It will be indigenously built in India. India is planning to commission Vishal by 2030-35.
Does India Really Have a Blue Water Navy?
After having a glance on India’s present Naval Assets and future plans, now lets have a look at some hardcore facts from report of Indian Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) .
- Operational availability of Indian submarines is as low as 48% due to an aging fleet and prolonged refit schedules as more than 50% of its submarines having completed 75% of their operational life. Some have already lived their maximum life span.
- Navy’s operational readiness, given 74 percent of its refits between 2005 and 2010 were completed with a total delay of more than 23 years.
- Vikramaditya is a second-hand warship with a limited life-span and 60% costlier than a new one.
- MiG-29 fighter was “riddled with problems” and that serviceability rate is just 15-35 per cent.
- The Indian Navy is currently weak on submarine capabilities.This means if India goes to war today, it will have only seven to eight submarines, which include three spanking new French Agosta-90B vessels. These numbers are less than even Pakistan Navy.
After going through above facts it is very clear that India needs a lot of effort and investment still to be an effective Blue water Navy. But it is also a fact that India does have a window of opportunity to be blue water navy.
The navy’s allocation in India’s defense budget would force it to make crucial trade-offs between developing one capability versus the other. India has to decide whether she wants to build her submarine capabilities of want to be blue water navy.